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Title: Geotechnical Behaviour Of Soil Containing Mixed Layered Illite-Smectite Contaminated With Caustic Alkali
Authors: Sankara, Gullapalli
Advisors: Allam, M M
Sivapullaiah, P V
Keywords: Soil Mechanics
Geotechnical engineering
Illite-Smectite-Clay Minerals
Mixed Layer Minerals
Soil Behavior
Field Contaminated Soils
Soil-Alkali Interactions
Soils - Properties
Black Cotton Soil
Fine Grained Soils
Soil Contamination
Soil Pollution
Submitted Date: Apr-2006
Abstract: The aim of the thesis has been to evaluate and understand the effect of caustic alkali solution of varying composition on the behaviour of expansive soil containing mixed layered minerals. Mixed layered minerals are formed of two or more kinds of inter grown layers, not physical mixtures. Illite - smectite is the most abundant and wide spread of the mixed layered clay minerals in sedimentary rocks and soils and also more common than either discrete illite or smectite. In geotechnical engineering much attention has not been paid to the behaviour of soils containing mixed layered minerals. Much less is known about the behaviour of these soils in polluted environment. Mixed layered minerals are more susceptible to environmental changes as the structural linkages between the layer minerals are weak compared to normal layered phyllosilicates. One important pollutant that can have considerable effect on the behaviour of soils is the caustic alkali contamination released from various industries. Recent studies have shown that the behaviour of even stable minerals is affected by alkali contamination. However, the effect of caustic alkali contamination on the behaviour of soils containing mixed layered minerals is not known and has been chosen for detailed study. Also to understand the mechanism of their interaction with alkali, it is necessary to study the effect of alkali solutions on the constituent clay minerals viz., montmorillonite and illite under similar conditions. To elucidate the mechanism of soil alkali interaction limited tests were conducted with simple electrolyte solution, as the alkali solution also acts as electrolyte apart from being alkaline. To confirm the mechanism of interaction, tests are also conducted on these soils with industrial spent liquor containing high caustic alkali and suspended alumina obtained from an alumina extraction plant treating bauxite with high alkali solutions at high temperatures. The results obtained in the laboratory are compared with the soil samples contaminated with leaking industrial Bayer's liquid in the field. Studies are also conducted to suggest remedial measures to control the adverse effects of alkali solutions on soil containing mixed layer minerals. The content of the thesis is broadly divide into 8 Chapters - viz., Introduction, Background and overview, Experimental program and procedures, Behaviour of soils containing mixed layer mineral illite - smectite (BCSI), Behaviour of montmorillonite and illite, Influence of Bayer's liquor and study on the field contaminated soils, Measures to control the influence of alkali contamination on BCSI and Summary and conclusions. The broad outline of these chapters is given in Chapter 1. A review of literature on the behaviour of soils containing different types of clay minerals with emphasis on mixed layer minerals has been presented in Chapter 2. The influence of different inorganic contaminants on the properties of soils in terms of their physical and chemical characteristics as well as their concentration has been summarized. The importance of changes in surface characteristics of soil particles and the changes in the thickness of diffuse double layer in altering the property of soils at low concentration of contaminants and changes in the mineralogy with high concentrated contaminants such as acids and alkalis has been highlighted. This forms the background information necessary to bring out the scope of the study. Four soils having different mineralogy have been used in this study. These soils are, black cotton soil containing predominantly mixed layer mineral illite - smectite mineral called rectorite, illite, montmorillonite (common smectite) and black cotton soil containing predominantly montmorillonite. The properties of the soils used are described in Chapter 3. Caustic alkali solutions of 1N, 4N concentration prepared in the laboratory and industrial alkali-spent liquor are used as contaminants. The spent Bayer's liquor had about 4N alkali concentration and 10% alumina in suspension. To simulate the effect of suspended alumina, two more caustic alkali solutions of 1N and 4N solutions containing 10% alumina by weight of solutions are also prepared. To isolate the effect of electrolyte solutions from that of alkali solution, two electrolyte solutions of 1N and 4N sodium chloride solutions are also used. Test procedures for conducting various tests such as pH, water adsorption characteristics, X-ray diffraction studies, SEM studies, thermal characteristics and geotechnical properties such as Atterberg limits, Oedometer tests and Shear Strength are given in this chapter. The test procedures are modified, wherever necessary, to bring out the effect of contaminants, particularly the effect of duration of interaction on the properties of soils. The source and properties of black cotton soil are presented in Chapter 4. Detailed x-diffraction studies have confirmed the presence of inter layered illite-smectite mineral viz., rectorite, which is uncommon in Indian expansive soils, and is classified as CH (Clay of high compressibility) as per ASTM soil classification. Effect of alkali and salt solutions of 1N and 4N concentration on all physico chemical and geotechnical properties are studied in this chapter. As it is known that presence of certain elements such as aluminium influence the soil alkali interaction, the effect of suspended alumina along with alkali solution has also been investigated. The effect of contaminating fluids such as 1N NaOH, 4N NaOH with and without alumina, 1N NaCl and 4N NaCl on the geotechnical properties of the soil has been studied. Mineralogical changes were observed by XRD and thermal studies in the soil treated with 4N NaOH solution and 4N NaOH + 10% alumina. The interlayer potassium of illite is released and potassium hydroxide is formed in soil treated with 4N NaOH. Swelling compounds such as sodium aluminium silicate hydroxide hydrate (SASH) has formed due to attack of 4N NaOH + 10% alumina on silica rather than on rectorite. Thus the studies clearly bring out that the rectorite present in the soil is dissociated only in the presence of strong alkali solutions of concentration of about 4N. The liquid limit of soil decreased with increase in the electrolyte concentration in the case of NaCl solutions. With 1N NaOH, the liquid limit of soil increased due to increase in the thickness of diffuse double layer due to increased pH. However, Proctor's maximum dry density increased and optimum moisture content decreased with 1N NaOH. With increase in the concentration of alkali solution to 4N, the rectorite dissociates into constituent minerals with the formation potassium hydroxide. The liquid limit of soil decreased probably due to the dominating influence of electrolyte nature of hydroxide solution over the effect of increased negative charge on clay particles due increase in the pH on the constituent minerals. Proctor's maximum dry density decreased and optimum moisture content increased with 4N NaOH. Sediment volume and oedometer free swell at seating/nominal surcharge load of 6.25 kPa of soil increased in 1N and 4N caustic alkali solutions, though by different mechanisms. The increase with 1N solution is essentially due to increased negative charges on clay mineral surface. However, the increase in swelling with 4N solution is associated with the dissociation of rectorite mineral and occurs in two distinct phases unlike in the case of 1N solution. While the first phase can be attributed to the effect of alkaline nature of the solution after reduction in its concentration due to reaction with rectorite and the consequent reduction in its electrolyte nature. The second phase is due to the swelling of the separated constituent minerals in the presence of excess of alkali and occurs after much delay. Consolidation behaviour of rectorite in 1N and 4N alkali solutions has been studied in two ways: 1). Loading without waiting for the second stage of swelling to occur, as in standard consolidation procedure and 2). Loading after completion of second stage of swelling which is occurring after considerable delay as explained earlier. Normally one would initiate loading after equilibrium is reached at the end of first stage of swelling and second stage of swelling is not suspected. As there is no second stage of swelling with 1N solutions, these two types of consolidation tests produced the same results. Abnormal rebound is observed during unloading with 4N solution in which loading cycle is initiated without waiting for second stage of swelling to complete. It is interesting to note that while the liquid limit of soil decreased with increase in the concentration of alkali solution, the swelling increased. The testing procedure and period of interaction as well as the concentration of alkali solution during the test in these two tests are different. The effects of alkali solution are more severe in case of liquid limit because of thorough mixing and consequent effective reaction during testing. Similarly, the volume changes in soil that has already reacted with 4N alkali solution when exposed to further to alkali contamination are considerably less compared to uncontaminated soil exposed to fresh contamination. The shear strength of soil treated with 4N-alkali solution has increased particularly after long period of interaction. This indicates that the soil after mineralogical changes posses good strength. Chapter 5 presents the effect of alkali and salt solutions on the physico chemical and geotechnical properties of component minerals of mixed layered illite/smectite. For this study, commercially obtained montmorillonite (bentonite), naturally occurring black soil containing montmorillonite and commercially pure illite are used. It was observed that montmorillonite alkali reactions would not produce significant mineralogical changes where as illite is dissociated into smectite with the formation of potassium silicate by the interaction of released potassium with soluble silica. This confirms that the ultimate products of rectorite with alkali solutions would be smectite and compounds of potassium. In the absence of mineralogical alterations the liquid limit of montmorillonite decreases due to suppression of diffuse double layer thickness due to dominating influence of alkali solutions on this highly active clay. However a small increase in liquid limit is observed in illite with alkali solutions. Thus the net effect of alkali on rectorite is to decrease the liquid limit with increase in alkali concentration. While the free swell and oedometer swelling of montmorillonite generally decreases with increase in the alkali concentration, they increase in illite. However, in both the minerals the swelling occurs only in one phase. Thus the second phase of swelling that has been observed in rectorite can be attributed to delayed swelling of montmorillonite that has been released by the attack of alkali on rectorite. The behaviour of black soil containing mixed layer mineral contaminated in the field and laboratory by leaking Bayer's spent liquor in an alumina extraction plant has been studied in Chapter 6. The Atterberg limits of the samples treated with liquor are reduced and sediment volume increased. Similarly the swelling at seating load in consolidation test is higher in sample compacted with water and inundated with liquor. X-ray diffraction studies showed that the mineralogical changes are similar to those occurred with 4N caustic alkali solution. The mineralogical and micro structural changes in the soil samples that are contaminated by leaked spent liquor in the field are relatively more marked. Also the behavior of highly montmorillonite clay, bentonite, has been studied contaminated with liquor in the laboratory. The study on the effect of high concentrated alkali solutions on montmorillonite can be useful to study the effect of interaction on the dissociated montmorillonite. These studies are helpful to suggest some possible remedial measures to control the adverse effect of alkali on soils. Possible Remedial schemes that can be adopted before and after contamination of the soil to control the adverse effect of alkali solutions on the black cotton soil containing mixed layered mineral are listed and their effectiveness examined in Chapter 7. The suggested remedial measures include flushing with water to dilute the effect of alkali, neutralisation with dilute hydrochloric acid, stabilisation of soil with lime and calcium chloride and use of impervious membrane to separate the foundation soil from alkali solution. The effectiveness of different measures as well as the method of their application has been described. Efforts are made to understand the mechanism of remedial action. Consolidation tests conducted on soil contaminated with 4N alkali solution and inundated with water showed increased swelling due to dilution of the alkali concentration. Though the swelling of contaminated soil can be controlled by passing dilute hydrochloric acid (1N), the method is not advocated as it can lead to ground water contamination. Mixing the soil with solutions containing up to 5% by weight of calcium compound in water could not prevent the alkali induced heave in the long run when inundated with 4N alkali solution. This was due to dissolution of silica by the strong alkali solutions and formation of swelling compounds such as sodium aluminium silicate hydroxide hydrate (SASH). The formation of sodium aluminates occurred only when the alkali solution contained alumina or soil contained calcium compounds. There are no significant variations in the effects of calcium chloride or calcium hydroxide on contaminated soil. Replacing the foundation soil with soil thoroughly contaminated with 4N alkali solutions and controlling the migration of contaminants into the foundation soil using high-density polyethylene (HDPE) geosynthetic membranes can be an effective measure to control the heaving in alkali contaminated foundation soil containing interstratified illite – smectite. Summary and the major conclusions of the thesis are presented in Chapter 8.
URI: http://etd.iisc.ernet.in/handle/2005/352
Appears in Collections:Civil Engineering (civil)

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